People are talking about the new Edward Little High School to be built on the site of the current high school on Auburn Heights. The plans were enthusiastically approved by the state Board of Education in April. Citizens of Auburn are now being asked to approve the new school in a referendum on June 11, in order to receive the state funds and encumber local funds for enhanced options.

Patricia Gautier

Many Auburn citizens are in support of the project. Others question if residents can afford the local costs.

Supporting a new high school shows that Auburn citizens value education and support young people. A new ELHS is a great way to invest in Auburn’s future. My vote is “yes” on both questions, 1 and 2.

The state of Maine pays for the bulk of the project. Auburn citizens must decide what costs they will support both from state funds and local funds. The bonding process spreads the cost over 20 years. The referendum questions reflect the two sources of income in a way that will fund the basic building and fields, with Question 1 utilizing both state and local funds; and the enhanced options in Question 2 (local funds).

Question 1 carries a price tag of $111,458,578, which includes up to $105,898,850 in state funds and $5,559,728 in local funds. State funds cover the basic building, including office and classroom spaces, a library, cafeteria space, two gymnasiums, a 367-seat auditorium, 12 satellite CTE programs, 50% of the geothermal system, and grass playing fields. Local funds cover 50% of the geothermal system and other building enhancements.

Question 2 costs $10,577,764, which includes an amount not to exceed $8,972,346 of local bonds; up to $1 million of School Department funds; and $585,418 of grants and donations. These local funds cover enhancements to the performing arts center, including 833 more seats; an enhanced athletic stadium with artificial turf and two more track lanes; a concession stand with restrooms; 215 additional parking spaces; a second turf field; landscaping and site furnishings; and additional building space. Additional grants and donations will be used to reduce the amount of or pay debt service on the local bonds.

Fundraising efforts have started, as the School Department is committed to raising $3-5 million.

The highest estimate of tax impact for a $150,000 home is $94.00 per year for the life of the 20-year bond. Successful fundraising will mean less impact on local taxpayers.

Why are the enhancements that require local funding so important? What do they contribute to student achievement and success? What do they mean for the citizens of Auburn?

Question 1 includes both state and local funding for a geothermal climate-control system. Geothermal means lower annual energy costs and a cleaner environment. Consistent heating and cooling throughout the building will ensure more comfortable learning spaces for students and staff.

That is an investment with a quick turn-around and is a wise decision for Auburn.

Question 2 includes funding for a larger auditorium and related spaces and enhancements of the playing fields.

A 1,200-seat auditorium will allow for school-wide assemblies that will offer enrichment and enhanced learning experiences for students and staff. The current school has no auditorium and assemblies take place in the gym, displacing physical education classes and limiting what can be offered.

ELHS has a thriving drama club and many choral and instrumental experiences that enhance student learning in the arts, as well as offer co-curricular activities that allow students to learn outside the classroom.

A new auditorium could be used for regional music and drama competitions. Auburn would have its own concert/theater venue that generates revenues while drawing people from many communities.

Imagine a performing arts center that will pay for itself within a few short years. A brand new stadium with a turf field, two more track lanes and a modern concession stand will also be positives for the students and the larger Auburn community. Playoff games, regional championships — maybe even a state championship football, soccer or track meet — would be economic draws for the community of Auburn.

It is widely proven that students who participate in co-curricular activities learn life skills that greatly contribute to academic and life-long success. A new high school will help make them well-rounded individuals who will be able to contribute, wherever they live in the future.

Incredible opportunities for Auburn students and the entire Auburn community are within residents’ grasp with this new Edward Little High School building project.

It’s our time. Please vote “yes” on Questions 1 and 2 on June 11.

Patricia Gautier is a retired Edward Little librarian and current Auburn School Committee member.

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